Minnesota is entering its third week under a stay-at-home order as issued by our Governor, Tim Walz, in response to the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic. The stay-at-home order has closed all bars and sit-in restaurants, while leaving open gas stations, delivery/pick up services, and, thankfully, liquor stores.
The McGerik household is well-suited for the stay-at-home order. We had been utilizing online ordering for pickup and delivery for many years prior so we are familiar and comfortable with them. I had been slowly transitioning to working-from-home full-time and had reduced my work-in-the-office schedule to two days per week approximately a year ago so I was already of the mindset to work remotely.
The biggest beneficiary of the stay-at-home order has been Lizzie! She is loving having both of us home more. Upon getting Lizzie, we had made the decision to not go out as often so we could be home with her but the stay-at-home order has dramatically re-enforced that decision. Kat was low-needed, which means she was sent home from work because they didn’t need her. She normally works in the clinic three days per week but last week she worked only one day in the clinic. Which meant Lizzie had both of us home every day but one!
Being home with both Kat and Lizzie for so many days has been great. I have really enjoyed our days together. Kat has her productive hobbies, such as making protective masks, which keeps her occupied while I work, so we rarely get in each other’s way. We often enjoy a cup of coffee on the couch in the morning with Lizzie cuddled up next to us. I find it a great way to start the day.
With both of us recently at home so much, I wonder how Lizzie will react when either one of us returns to a more frequent work-from-the-office routine. I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue to work from home full time. I wonder if I could plead the case that our dog needs me to be home with her. I have greatly benefited from being with Lizzie this much, so maybe, I could plead the case I need to be home with her.
Lizzie, being a typical dog, likes to chase squirrels. While I let her chase them because she enjoys it so much, I put Lizzie at the disadvantage by warning the squirrels, usually by making extra noise when I open the door. I enjoy watching her chase the squirrels but I don’t want her to actually catch them. Truth be told, I like squirrels, particularly the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). I enjoy watching them and they are, for the most part, harmless.
This winter I noticed a dearth of gray squirrels in our yard. We normally have 3-4 gray squirrels and an occasional American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). I have seenRed fox (Vulpes vulpes) come through our yard so I suspect they have reduced the squirrel population. The situation became so bad that entire weeks would go by without me seeing any squirrels in our yard. Deciding that I had to do something to help the squirrels (and keep Lizzie entertained), I began placing food out for them. I put the food in locations that they could easily access without putting them in undue danger of predators.
Today, Lizzie and I looked out a window to see a gray squirrel eating peanuts on a Tiki statue in our backyard. Despite her penchant for chasing them, she quietly watched it eat. Perhaps she too understood that she can’t chase squirrels if there are no squirrels to chase and, therefore, let it have a meal.
Lizzie chases shadows. In the morning, when the sun is shining into the living room, she will lay on the floor, waiting for birds to come to the feeders and make shadows on the floor for her. And when a bird does make a shadow for her, she will bite at shadow while animatedly wagging her tail.
In the winter, on sunny days when the snow can be formed into snowballs, we will throw snowballs in the air so that shadows move across the yard. Lizzie happily chases after those shadows, occasionally barking at them. If our timing and aim is right, the snowball will land on her back as she chases its shadow across the yard.
After the snow melted this spring, there was no handy shadow making materials. Kat got the idea of using balls and purchased a bag of cheap plastic balls. The slow-motion video below is of Lizzie chasing the shadow of a ball and then catching the ball.
In the above video, Lizzie is wearing a bandage on her right front paw. She had a torn nail that was causing her some discomfort, so we bandaged it up. She is all healed up now.
We have a dozen White oak (Quercus alba) trees on our property, several of which are large and overhang the house, patio, and sidewalks. Starting in August, there is a constant staccato of knocks on the roof when the oaks drop their ripe acorns. When the wind gusts, the bombardment from the falling acorns is particularly heavy. And this year, the bombardment has been especially heavy, even on calm days with little wind.
Last year, the oaks produced a very small crop of acorns, so much so that I don’t recall seeing any on the walkways. This year, as if to compensate for last year’s meager output, the oaks produced a copious quantity of acorns. Regardless if we sweep the walkways once or twice a day, by the next morning, they are covered with acorns.
This morning, the bombardment by the back steps seemed strangely intense and concentrated. Looking out the window, I saw two acorns hit Lizzie in quick succession. When I went to investigate, I saw a gray squirrel up on a branch. It was the cause of the intensified bombardment!
After the squirrel had ran off to a different tree, I ran inside the house to retrieve my phone so I could take photos. Returning with the phone, I squatted to take pictures of the acorns scattered on the sidewalk when I was hit on the head by an acorn! Unbeknownst to me, the squirrel had returned while I was inside and had renewed his bombardment!
I bought a game camera with the hope of recording the coming and going of a nesting pair of White-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) that were nesting in one of our nest boxes. For various reasons, that didn’t work out to my satisfaction. Looking for a use for the game camera, I placed it in various locations in our yard to discover what it might record. Below are a few images captured by it.
Another frequent visitor to our yard is the American robin, often with an eye towards the ground, looking for worms to eat. While gardening, I place any grubs I find on a stump for birds to eat. Robins are usually the first to snatch them up.
The Chipping Sparrow is a regular summer-time resident. I frequently see them hopping through the grass, looking for seeds and insects. They appear to be fairly bold birds, approaching within a few feet of Lizzie. Lizzie, for the most part, ignores them preferring to hunt for rodents.
I recently bought a game camera, a ruggedized motion-activated camera used by hunters and wildlife watchers. I plan to use it to record the comings and goings of the birds using one of our nest boxes. Since the nest boxes are not yet being used, I’ve been using it to record activity of our back steps. I was hoping it would record the activities of squirrels visiting the feeding stations but all it seems to record is Lizzie coming and going.
Early one morning, Lizzie walked out the back door and knocked the camera off the steps. The camera captured her looking down over the steps at the camera.
On Monday morning, I wandered into the living room and discovered that Lizzie had thrown up at some point during the night. I cleaned up the neat pile of partially-digested food but didn’t think much of it. I assumed she had mild stomach upset after an afternoon of energetic play with Starla, a black lab mix owned by a friend of ours. I’ve seen this before with dogs that have played especially vigorously. After refilling her food and water bowls, Kat and I headed to the MN State Fair for the day.
Sadly, upon our return, I realized that Lizzie had more than a mildly upset stomach. She had vomited in multiple locations and had diarrhea. After a mostly sleepless night during which she vomited numerous times, we decided to bring Lizzie into see the veterinarian. At 3 PM when I was done with work, I loaded a noticeably lethargic Lizzie into my car and drove her to the veterinary clinic.
After running several tests, the veterinarian was unable to determine the cause of her vomiting and diarrhea. She did discover that Lizzie’s intestines were inflamed and hemorrhargic, that is, she had acute, severe hemorrhagic gastroenteritis in addition to being dehydrated.
After discussing the issue, the veterninarian and I made the decision to keep Lizzie overnight at the clinic so that she could be put on a rehydration IV and to have medicines administered to stop the vomiting and soothe her intestines.
I received a phone call from the veterinarian on Wednesday morning in which I learned that Lizzie had improved overnight but that they would like for her to stay at the clinic until at least 3 PM so they could continue monitoring her and caring for her. I was disappointed but concurred. I really wanted Lizzie home with me!
At 3 PM, the veterinarian called to say that Lizzie had recovered enough to go home. I was ecstatic and quickly drove over to the clinic to get Lizzie.
Before discharging Lizzie, they gave me medications for her along with care instructions. I was to make certain that she ate. If she did not, I was to call them or bring her back in. And I was to bring her back immediately if her vomiting or diarrhea returned.
As of now, she is sitting by the front door, trying to stay awake while watching for squirrels. It is good to have her home.
Lizzie was laying down inside the door off of our living room. We have a magnetic screen door to allow easy egress while keeping out insects such a mosquitos. She was laying justing inside the screen door, watching for squirrels when she saw one crossing the yard from one tree to another. Leaping into action, she sprung from her spot and ran across the yard at full speed.
Despite being a fast dog, Lizzie normally poses no threat to gray squirrels. And like previous times, she wasn’t a real threat to this squirrel. The squirrel easily made it to a tree and scaled it to get out of reach of Lizzie.
This time, events played out unexpectedly. The squirrel fell out of the tree.
It fell out of the tree, landing on the ground in front of Lizzie. Lizzie looked at me with a quizzical look, as if to ask, “What should I do?”
The squirrel quickly righted itself and ran towards a different tree. Lizzie reacted quickly and gave chase. At this point, the squirrel was in desperate straits. When it attempted to climb another tree, Lizzie leaped and pulled it down. Lizzie chased the squirrel around the tree several times before the squirrel tried to run for the fence. Alas for the squirrel, that was its fatal mistake, for Lizzie easily ran it down and caught it.
After catching the squirrel and tossing it around a few times, it was clear that Lizzie didn’t know what to do with the squirrel. This resulted in a wounded squirrel that probably would not survive on its own. I put it out of its suffering by executing a cervical dislocation to sever its spinal cord.
Thus is the story of the first squirrel caught by Lizzie.